When my doctor told me that I’d developed type 2 diabetes, it was a shock – especially as I was mum to a young son. I was given medication and referred to a dietitian, who gave me a meal plan to follow. I gave up after a couple of weeks, though, telling myself I just didn’t enjoy healthy food and would never be able to tackle my weight.
It wasn’t the first time I’d given up on a diet. Every now and then I’d resolve to get healthy, but I never found anything I could stick to. I remember trying a shake-based diet that made me feel constantly deprived, and going to a weight loss group where I’d felt convinced everyone was judging me.
Looking back at my horse-mad teenage years, I’d been fit and healthy enough to work 12-hour days at the stables. My weight issues started when I left my passion behind at the age of 21. I turned to food to fill that big gap in my life and became such a regular at my local takeaway that when I rang in my order, the man on the line would recognise my voice and say, ‘Cheeseburger with spiral fries?’.
Before long, my health started to suffer. My feet hurt so much I could hardly stand, and I had to crawl to the bathroom to use the toilet. I ended up in a dark place, questioning whether life was worth living. While the antidepressants and painkillers my doctor prescribed helped the symptoms, I didn’t get to the root of why I was so unhappy – now I know it was my weight.
I fell pregnant in 2010 and by the time my son, Ryan, was born I was a size 24. I ate chocolate bars for energy – that was only very short-lived – and when Ryan started crawling, my aching joints meant I struggled to get down on the floor to play with him. I went back to my doctor, who warned me I was at risk of a stroke and heart disease, and that was when I discovered I’d developed type 2 diabetes.
When Ryan was eight months old, I bought my horse, Charm, in the hope that caring for him might help me get back to that happier, healthier me. While I loved working with horses again, everything felt so much more tiring than before, and I knew I wouldn’t be able to ride Charm at the weight I was.
The trigger point
It wasn’t until 2018 that it really hit me: if I didn’t start looking after my health, maybe I wouldn’t be around to look after Ryan. He’d been diagnosed with autism, which meant he’d probably need me for longer. The thought of leaving him without a mum terrified me.
I hadn’t tried Slimming World before, so I messaged my local Consultant and went along to her group that week. Everyone was friendly and I barely felt self-conscious until the end of the session, when I was taken aside for my private weigh-in. I saw the numbers flash up – 19st 8lbs – and that familiar feeling of self-doubt was there again. Still, I was determined to try, for Ryan’s sake as well as mine.
I turned to the recipes on the app to make family-friendly dinners, such as lasagne with Slimming World chips and veg, and I was stunned at how tasty the meals were – very different from what I’d thought of as healthy food. After two weeks, I’d lost half a stone.
When I mentioned in group how hard I found it to cut back on the bars of chocolate, my Consultant explained what trigger foods are and gave me strategies to manage them. And when I was upset about having gone over my Syns, one member smiled and said: ‘It doesn’t matter, and it doesn’t have to ruin your whole week.’ It was such a simple piece of advice and it turned my approach to weight loss on its head. In the past, as soon as I’d gone off track, I’d not just given up on weight loss but eaten more fast food than before. Now I realised that one slip didn’t mean I needed to give up on the plan, or myself.
More for members: What are trigger foods, danger zones and sabotage traps?
Another thing that helped keep the scales moving was using Slimming World’s Body Magic programme to build up my activity levels. I set myself the goal of walking and running 50 miles in a month and remembered how good it felt to be active, and how much more energy it gave me. By the time I’d lost around 5st, I noticed that mucking out Charm was no longer leaving me gasping for breath.
My family life transformed and, in 2021, I felt confident enough to go on our first family holiday – wearing a swimming costume and splashing around in the pool with Ryan. On weekends, I had the energy to do something fun, even after a busy morning at the stables.
Most importantly, my health vastly improved – and by the time I reached my target weight of 11st 1lb I’d reversed my type 2 diabetes and no longer felt I needed my antidepressants. I could enjoy being a mum – and enjoy being me – again. I’m now back riding horses and I’m the happiest I’ve been since I was a teenager. It turns out that losing weight could be for me, after all – I just needed to find the support at Slimming World.
Abby’s day on a plate
Three chocolate croissants, or three crumpets with chocolate spread.
A low-fat fruit yogurt and two Hi-fi bars.
Sausage roll or a cheese and bacon turnover, followed by a cream bun.
Tuna salad made with gherkins, sweetcorn and some mayo from my Syns, with a jacket potato.
A cheeseburger and chips takeaway, or a stuffed-crust pizza.
Biscuits or chocolate in the morning and chocolate or a sharing bag of tortilla chips in the evening.
Melon chunks, or strawberries, raspberries and blueberries, with some maple syrup from my Syns for a shot of sweetness.
Weight loss will vary according to your individual circumstances and how much weight you have to lose.